12 Of Donald Trump’s Professional Athlete Endorsements, Ranked | Gradient

12 of Donald Trump’s Professional Athlete Endorsements, Ranked

What’s the best way to choose who you’re going to vote for in the general election? By which party they’re running for? By picking the lesser of two evils? The meticulous study of their proposed policies in relation to said policies’ feasibility, and likelihood that the candidate will actually enact them? All worthwhile pursuits, but what really clinches a vote in this country is celebrity endorsements. And if you’re Donald Trump, those celebrity endorsements aren’t going to come from the liberal wingnuts over in Hollyweird, no, they’re going to come from athletes.

Which athletes? The following, whom we have given a power ranking due the strength of their endorsement.

Honorable mentions: Michael Waltrip and John Daly

Michael Waltrip (NASCAR) and John Daly (Golf) are, honestly, low-hanging fruits. Think about it, were you shocked to hear members of the NASCAR and golf community were concerned with Trump’s? I’ve seen Talladega Nights too many times to even hope to give a nuanced opinion.


11. John Rocker

Endorsement: “I think he has woken America up.”

There’s only one presidential candidate that can save John Rocker from the existential dread of riding public transit amongst minorities. Maybe Trump can help build a wall that stops Latinos from riding the 7 Train?

Not much has changed since the famous Sports Illustrated piece on Rocker almost 20 years ago. He’s last. That was the easiest call.


10. Richie Incognito

Endorsement: “Let’s make America great again!”

The Bills lineman was cut from his former team, the Miami Dolphins, when he left a brazenly racist voicemail for teammate Jonathan Martin, lined with racial slurs intended to motivate the “half-nigger piece of shit” to train harder. Incognito’s message was somehow made worse by signing off with three simple words, “I’ll kill you.” This was the most jarring in a pattern of behavior littered with lame, offensive gay jokes and workplace bullying — all justified because hey, that’s what football players do! Like Incognito, Trump is no stranger to accusations of bullying. They’re both pros at letting people know they, too, have black friends. Check out Incognito in an interview with Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer (emphasis mine):

“This isn’t an issue about bullying… This is an issue of my and Jon’s relationship. This is an issue of my and Jon’s relationship. You can ask anybody in the Miami Dolphins locker room, ‘Who had Jon Martin’s back the absolute most?’ and they’ll undoubtedly tell you [that it was] me… The racism, the bad words … that’s what I regret most, but that is a product of the environment, and that’s something we use all the time.”

Shorter Richie Incognito: “The Blacks love me!”

Let’s keep going.


9. Mike Tyson

Endorsement: “That shit is the real deal.”

Mike Tyson Mysteries is hilarious. The Hangover was a really good time, better than it had any right to be. I want Mike to succeed. Donald Trump did too, enough to overlook his rape conviction, so Tyson could continue to box and sell tickets at Trump venues.

Yeah, I think we’re done here.

BOSTON - APRIL 14: Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz reacts after walking the Rays' Sam Fuld, not pictured, on a close pitch to lead off the sixth inning. The Boston Red Sox hosted the Tampa Bay Rays in a regular season MLB game at Fenway Park. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

8. Clay Buchholz

Endorsement: He’s been awesome to me.”

Clay checks off every box of a possible Trump fan. After reading his quotes explaining his support, it makes more sense than I realized:

  1. The admission that he is “not really into politics” is helpful.
  2. Acknowledgment that Trump’s been “really awesome to me.”
  3. The appreciation that “[Trump] says what’s on his mind.” Clearly. 
  4. Both have stolen property away from the public good. Trump via eminent domain, Buchholz by stealing laptops from middle schoolers.

(The only thing that doesn’t make sense is that Buchholz’s former Red Sox rotation-mate/current conservative pariah Curt Schilling, isn’t a Trump fan. Then again, a Trump presidency might promote a more humane outlook and policy on transgender rights than Schilling would be comfortable with.)




7. Johnny Damon and Terrell Owens [Tie]

Damon’s Endorsement: “Everything he does, he does first-class — his hotels, his businesses, his golf courses.”

Owens’ Endorsement: Trump …he’s a guy who won’t put up with B.S.” 

Unlike Donald Trump, Johnny Damon, and Terrell Owens made peace with their ‘do, trimming down when their respective hairlines started to recede. I respect that. The member of the historic, 2004 World Champion Red Sox and Celebrity Apprentice contestant (hey, is there a pattern here?) loves being the center of attention. Terrell does too, literally:

It’s a gift.


6. Paul O’Neill

Endorsement: “I’m here!”

O’Neill, a five-time World Champion outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees, announced his support at the Trump National Golf Club. While he inches past fellow Yankee alum Damon on the merits of *not* being a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice, his lack of recent playing time (O’Neill retired after the 2001 season) hurts him from joining the upper echelon of athletes for Trump. We’d rank him lower, but you won’t like Paulie when he’s angry.

Wayment. Can I use Paul O’Neill to sketch a brief illustration about white privilege for a second? Cool?

First, a necessary disclaimer. I’m a Yankees fan. I was watching when Yankees fans, fearful he was playing his last defensive inning in Yankee Stadium, began chanting his name. I loved his .300 batting averages and 100 RBI and “intensity”. He’s justifiably beloved in New York. O’Neill voting for Trump felt like utter betrayal for a large contingent of Bronx Bombers faithful. Just sharing my emotional connection to the man so you hear what I’m saying. Anyway, yo, scroll back up and look at that gif. Though his on-field performance was phenomenal, his “intensity” is what endeared him most to his fans. He’s not a bad sport, he had a rage to succeed!

I’m also black. (Remember when black people used to like baseball? Me too, Chris.) And so, when I look at that poor, defenseless water cooler, I’m reminded of instances where black athletes displayed unchecked emotion — Richard Sherman says “hello” — and were vilified. Could you imagine if Paul O’Neill was named, I don’t know, Je’maine Stewart, T.J. Juckson, or D’Isiah T. Billings-Clyde? You know the last thing baseball fans and pundits would do is celebrate his intensity and will to win. He’d be a crazy-as-hell malcontent that needs to learn how to play the game the right way and show some class, and maybe even stop being such a thug, and we’d like him more if he stopped acting like such a ni– but I digress.

Paul O’Neill worship, like Donald Trump worship, is nonsense.



5. Latrell Sprewell

Endorsement: “Congratulations to @RealDonaldTrump!”

OK, so, on the plus side, Latrell Sprewell made this gem of an advertisement for Priceline.

And you can’t knock a man too much for connecting with a man wealthy enough to help him feed his family.

Of course, that commercial, borrowing from his riches to rags story portrays him sharing life advice so comically bad, is almost comparable to advising someone to vote for Trump. Trump doesn’t mess with losers. This chokes him out of the top tier.

Football great Herschel Walker speaks to the Class of 2016 during Basic Cadet Training in the U.S. Air Force Academy's Jacks Valley in Colorado Springs, Colo. July 17, 2012. Walker spent time talking to the Class of 2016 about resiliency, his own personal struggles in life and encouraged the cadets to reach out and seek help if they need it.

4. Herschel Walker

Endorsement: “Donald is saying what people want to hear.”

TMZ Sports of all places, extracted one fleeting moment of self-awareness, telling the gossip rag that “we can’t build a wall and not let people in the country.”

So brief, so beautiful, does this work for him or against him?


Maybe—just maybe—Herschel Walker looks himself in the mirror and is like why am I fooling around with a man promising to fix this nation, but can’t fix his toupee? You can work with the relative clairvoyance of the former. Maybe he stiff-arms him from entering the Oval Office? (That’s allowed, right?)


If only Walker had stopped talking. The quote continued:

“Donald has said what he’s said, but his numbers haven’t gone down. That’s a sign he is saying the things that people think, but are afraid to say themselves. Donald is saying what people want to hear.”


When he isn’t endorsing a man campaigning on the mass-deportation of millions of illegal immigrants, he’s a pretty supportive dad!

Walker’s 15-year-old son, Christian, is a prodigious athletic talent, but he’s not a future football star. No, Walker shines as a competitive cheerleader. CBS Morning News had a wonderful profile on the bond between father and son, traveling to various cheering competitions across the country:

Herschel Walker loves his son, and wants him to thrive in a sport few boys and men compete in without ostracization and bullying. Here’s Ronin Shimizu, a 12-year old boy cheerleader that took his life. His classmates teased him relentlessly, calling him “gay” among other insults. Walker, the proto-man and still imposing retiree provides an example to boys and men everywhere by simply living his life and being the man his son needs him to be. Respect. 


Walker’s stand for his son, and by extension, against bullying, is hard to reconcile with the likely Republican nominee. The New York Times compiled a complete list of 210 People, Places and Things Donald Trump has insulted as of April 22, 2016 (there’s still time). See Trump’s faux-restraint about Megyn Kelly (“I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct”) or his routine emasculation of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio (“[Bush] had to bring in mommy to take a slap at me”, 19 counts of “lightweight”).

The only thing better than Walker’s prodigious run, or valiant effort to fight against middle-aged-ness in the MMA ring, is his ability to compartmentalize.

All in all, I’m ranking him high on the list because he could still break me in half if he happened to Google himself and didn’t like what I wrote. 

Manager Pete Rose

3. Pete Rose

Endorsement: A mystery for our time.

Our first real deal controversy on the rankings. Did Pete Rose really endorse Donald Trump when he signed that baseball asking “Please Make America Great Again”?

Okay, well, in a strictly, literal, factual, journalistic, boring sense, we can’t know for sure. But who reads power rankings for facts and objectivity? Not I!

As I see it, Pete Rose has the classic makings of a Trump endorsement. He’s well, *well* past his prime. Shoot, he’s past being liked or appreciated, both by fans and casual onlookers. Though Rose is one of the greatest to ever play the game, he will, barring an improbable turn of events, never see reinstatement into MLB or induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The odds are so low, Pete Rose wouldn’t even bet on him getting a second chance. His glory days are so long gone, I’m stunned he hasn’t shown up on Celebrity Apprentice. (Trump has tried to get his friend on board, but no luck. Yet. Could Rose say “no” to The President?)

Then again, Rose will do anything for a quick buck:

No, wait, that just makes him more like Trump! Shoot, I have all I need. He stays on the list. He’s near the top.

2. Dennis Rodman


Endorsement: We don’t need another politician, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump!”

Rodman’s previous rebound from his post-Chicago Bulls legacy: cozying up to Kim Jong Un. I’m sure he’s happy to have found another potential despot, this time in his home court. I’m ranking him this high because if Trump wins, Rodman will have the ear of two despots eager to start a nuclear war. He’s our only hope at detente.

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09

1. Tom Brady

Endorsement: “He’s always invited me to play golf.”

Was there ever any doubt?

Tom Brady led the NFL in passing touchdowns. He threw over 4000 yards for a fifth straight season. As the lone athlete that is not only active but at the top of his game, he has to be at the very top of this list. Like Rose, Brady’s support is a tad less formal. Though Brady denies support for Trump as president candidate, preferring to frame his relationship as support for a friend, you can’t deny the hat. Shoot, he probably models the hat better than anyone else. You know which hat.

 All in all, Tom isn’t that bad as far as arrogant rich guys showing support for Donald Trump go. He wears Uggs, sure. The US Appellate Court upheld his four-game suspension for intentionally deflating footballs before a playoff game, a scheme designed to gain a competitive advantage over his opponent and eventually, win a Super Bowl, sure. But he’s not that bad.